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Overcoming Nerves and Anxiety

Do you get nervous/stressed/anxious before or during a gig? You're not alone. I still get a mild case of the nerves before playing. It used to be pretty rough in my younger days. I was the same way before playing every game (football, basketball, etc.) as both a kid and adult, coaching little league games as an adult and before speaking publicly. I then realized that it was just the fight or flight response. Since I wasn't gonna fly, I figured I would channel it into fight. In other words I chose to use that energy to get myself pumped up. Now if I get a case of nerves, it immediately makes me excited. No more nervous shits for me!

See if you can teach yourself to channel that energy into getting excited to play. Instead of thinking of it as a bad thing, remember that it's just your body pumping adrenalin into your bloodstream. Give the adrenalin an outlet by getting excited. Instead of fighting it or trying to hide it, tell your bandmates that you're getting pumped.  

There's something else you can try. Check out http://www.hamr.com. It's called Hand Actuated Mental Reconditioning. The basic premise is pretty simple. When you have a thought or feeling that has a negative effect on you, learn how to replace it with a positive thought. This technique involves using your hands and all of your brain to associate the "bad" thought with a "good" thought. 

Yeh, yeh, I know it sounds like a load of bull. I speak from personal experience that it's not. I am a big skeptic in every area of my life. When I looked at this in depth, the basic premises seemed sound, I figured it could have no bad effect on me, and it didn't cost me a dime. So I gave it a shot. Since then I have used it several times with great success. I could tell it was working when the "bad" thought would hit and I would immediately remember the good thought I was using as a replacement. After a short while it got to the point that the same triggers for the bad thought became triggers for the good thought - the bad thought was gone. 

Their technique involves alternating hands in an attempt to involve both sides of the brain in making the association. Part of the technique involves remembering things in the past, thinking about the present, and imagining the future. This supposedly results in all parts of the brain being activated during the process. Maybe that's why it works. Or maybe it works accidentally. Who cares? 

Here's a real life example for me. When my father died several years back, things would happen to remind me of him - that's normal. What I didn't like was the sadness and anger that came with it  (anybody who has lost a parent can relate to the anger). I used this technique to replace that reaction with a particularly fond memory of my father. Even as I type this I am getting that same warm feeling about my dad. 

What you could try is to replace that nervous reaction with the buzz you get when the band nails a song and the audience applauds. Or try replacing the feeling you get when you think you are forgetting a part with the feeling you get when you really know a piece well. 

I'm telling you, give the technique a shot. Do it several times per day for a couple of weeks. You got nothing to lose. 

If it works for you, drop me an e-mail and let me know.

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